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Content Grab Bag: Seth Harp’s Biggest What Ifs

“We’re all in this together, right? That’s why Barrett Sports Media is creating a content grab bag and we’re asking everyone to pitch in.”

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Good hosts and shows aren’t struggling for content right now, but who knows how long it will be before we get live sports again? Sure, the NFL Draft is coming up, but do you know what you’re going to do once the stories generated by that event have run their course? Hell, we’ll have been without sports for nearly a month and a half at that point.

We’re all in this together, right? That’s why Barrett Sports Media is creating a content grab bag and we’re asking everyone to pitch in.

Got an idea that can help someone else? Do you have a perfect bit in mind, but maybe your situation has changed and now you have nowhere to pull it off? Don’t let it go to waste! If you want to contribute, reach out to Demetri Ravanos on Twitter.

Our first contribution comes from Seth Harp, former program director and host at 97.3 the Game in Jacksonville, Florida. No NCAA Tournament, no Masters, and no anything else is going to lead to a lot of “what if” conversations. That was the inspiration for his contribution.

Seth Harp on Twitter: "Today was one of those days. I couldn't ...

Exploring Sports What Ifs

by Seth Harp

What if? Two words that sports fans ask themselves as they search the depths of their grey matter for endless answers. Today Kansas and Dayton Basketball fans are asking the same question. Could Lakers and Bucks fans be asking themselves the same question in a few months?  

Just this spring alone we could fill an entire archive. What if Tiger successfully defended his Masters Title?  What if a Mid Major won the NCAA tournament?  And to add a dark layer – What if sports continued to be played and we lost some major stars and personalities because of arrogance and greed?  Thankfully we will never have to answer that last question.    

As we enter a sports “No Man’s Land”  I wanted to spend some time asking What if ? For the purpose of this exercise, I’ve set three criteria.    

First we eliminated scenarios that involved players with chronic injuries. What if Grant Hill could’ve stayed healthy? What if Terrell Davis stayed healthy? Too much room for maneuverability.   

Second, I eliminated trades and draft picks. What if Portland drafted Michael Jordan? What if the Charlotte Hornets didn’t trade Kobe Bryant?  What if the Red Sox kept Babe Ruth? This would’ve turned into a Star Wars sports scenario. I just didn’t have the strength or patience for that! 

Finally, I eliminated what I call “grandiose scenarios”. What if the AFL and NFL never merge? What if baseball eliminates segregation earlier or waits longer? The possibilities of these scenarios are too fantastical and the infinite far too great. Instead this exercise will be isolated to one time events and decisions – a single lynch pin that was pulled.   

With that, here are my top 5 “what ifs” in sports history.

5. What if Kenyon Martin doesn’t break his leg during the 2000 NCAA tournament?   

Broken dreams: An oral history of when Kenyon Martin's injury ...

Kenyon Martin was the best college basketball player in the country for Cincinnati and Bob Huggins during the 2000 season. They spent 12 of 18 weeks ranked #1 back when that meant something. Martin won the Rupp Trophy, Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy, etc. You see where this is going. 

Martin broke his leg against St. Louis in the Bearcats first game of the Conference USA tourney.  They ended up losing to the Bilikins by 10.  They had just beat St. Louis by 43 points in their regular season finale. The committee rewarded Huggins and Cincinnati for a great season and kept them as a #2 seed. They were able to beat UNC Wilmington in the opening round before falling to Tulsa in the second round. Michigan St would go on to beat Florida to win the national title a few weeks later. This remains Tom Izzo’s only title at Michigan St. Do he and the Spartans beat a healthy Martin and company? 

A non-power conference team still hasn’t won a title since UNLV. An awkward landing 20 years ago would continue this streak into the third decade of this century. How much longer will that last? Dayton, Gonzaga and San Diego St would’ve loved to have taken that test. 

4.  What if Ted Williams didn’t miss 5 seasons of his career due to war?   

FLYING CHANGED KID’S LIFE

Ted Williams may always remain the pinnacle of character on and off the field for sports figures, the George Washington of baseball. He did miss  three full seasons (1943-45) and the better parts of (1952-53) as a fighter pilot. What would have Ted Williams career numbers have been if the World didn’t lose its collective in the middle of the 20th century? 

I took the previous two years of Williams seasons and two years following each war for the most accurate assessment. Here is what I came up with. For the WWII he missed out on 182 hits per season. His home run average would’ve been 36 per season along with RBI 124. Add in the missed numbers during the Korean War shortened season he missed out on 219 base hits 44 more home runs and another 161 RBI.   

Williams’s actual career stats: 2654 hits, 521 home runs, and 1839 RBI

His career stats if he played instead of going to war: 3419 hits, 673 home runs, and 2496 RBI 

Williams would have ranked second only to Ruth in career Home Runs and would still hold MLB’s record for career RBI.   

3.  What if baseball doesn’t go on strike in 1994?  

Two-Montreal-Expos-fans-remember-the-strike-of-1994-before-the-game-between-the-Expos-and-the-Arizona-Diamondbacks-during-NL-action,-Thursday,-Aug.-12,-2004-in-Montreal.-(CP-PHOTO/Francois-Roy)

Trying to get a handle on everything that could’ve happened here is like trying to ride a rabid bull while you are drunk and blindfolded. When the 1994 baseball season stopped in August here are just a few things that were taking place.  

  1. The Montreal Expos were 74-40 and had the best record in baseball.  Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez and the list goes on. The Expos were loaded.    
  2. The Yankees were 70-43 and were looking for bullpen help. They were interested in Cubs closer Randy Myers. The Cubs were said to want a skinny minor league shortstop by the name of Derek Jeter in return.  With the strike looming the Yankees never really pursued it.    
  3. Giants 3rd Baseman Matt Williams had 43 HR.  This was a HUGE deal.  Just 18 HRs away from Roger Maris. Before McGwire and Sosa’s Steroid surge, the single season HR was the sports Holy Grail. Williams’s pace put him at 59. What drama that would’ve been. 
  4. Tony Gwynn was hitting .394 – Would Gwynn have been able to supplant Ted Williams as the last .400 hitter? Probably not.  But it would have been a fun September.   

2.  What if Drew Brees picked the Dolphins instead of the Saints in 2006? 

Timeline | Saints 50

Brees will likely go over the 80,000 career passing yard threshold this season. If he stays ahead of Brady, it will be at least a decade before any other player even approaches his statistical level. If Drew Brees would have picked South Florida over the Big Easy back in 2006, Nick Saban likely stays and never leaves for Tuscaloosa. This has such a cascading effect it almost violates my fantastical rule I employed at the beginning of this piece.

Saban’s 5 titles and decade of dominance are in their own category.  Here are just a few butterfly effect scenarios that play out if he stays with the Dolphins.

  1. Saints never win a Super Bowl
  2. Tommy Tubberville doesn’t lose job (Cam Newton probably doesn’t go to Auburn then)
  3. Urban Meyer Stays at Florida
  4. Tim Tebow wins a 3rd Title 
  5. Les Miles and LSU win multiple National Titles
  6. College Football coaching salaries rise but don’t sore 
  7. The Dolphins are actually competitive and relevant 
  8. The Patriots dynasty looks a lot different with Brees in division

1.    What if Baseball had PED testing in place during the mid 90’s?

Labmax Testing Kit – IRONGYM7

Oh wow! Well, what does baseball look like today! Now we look back on the steroid era in baseball with the arrogance of first class passenger on the Titanic.   

Here is what is likely different.   

Roger Maris single season HR record of 61 still stands. Bonds (73), McGwire (70 and 65), and Sosa (66, 64, and 63) all go away.   

Hank Aaron’s career HR record still stands. 755 still sits atop the mount. Today we would wonder if Albert Pujols would limp to the finish line for a crack at it. He would likely need around 4 healthy seasons to do it.   

Bond’s adjusted career line would be 585 home runs and 1700 RBI. That give him a Reggie Jackson statistical career and is probably good enough to make him a first ballot Hall of Famer.  

Roger Clemens doesn’t win 4 more Cy Young awards. Clemons won over 162 games after leaving the Red Sox to join the Blue Jays following the 1997 season. He finished his career with 354 wins.  Does he even get to 275 let alone 300 without some juice?

Baseball would have an almost entirely different history. The question is would we have consumed it? 

What are your greatest sports what ifs? What are your listeners’? Come with a few theories on how things unfold in your alternate history and watch the reactions and willingness to play along explode!

BSM Writers

Grant Cohn’s Trolling of Players is Unacceptable

After an altercation between Javon Kinlaw of the San Francisco 49ers and Grant Cohn, it became clear that Kinlaw was being trolled by a member of the media.

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grant cohn

Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on SI.com. He also talks about the team on his YouTube channel, which has over 48,000 subscribers as of noon Thursday. His father, Lowell, was a longtime columnist in the Bay Area.

Javon Kinlaw is a defensive lineman, whom the San Francisco 49ers drafted in the first round despite concerns about the durability of his knee. He played four games last season, his second in the league.

The two were involved in two confrontations this week. The first one occurred off to the side of the 49ers’ practice field. Kinlaw apparently cursed at Cohn and knocked his hat from atop his head. Later in the day, Kinlaw again swore at Cohn, this time after joining a live stream on Cohn’s YouTube channel. (Side note: I have never felt so freaking old as I did while typing that previous sentence.)

OK. That’s my attempt at an absolutely straightforward and objective summary of a situation that scares the hell out of me. Not because a player was mad at a member of the media. I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve seen it happen to others. It’s my opinion that this has been happening for as long as human beings have scrutinized the athletic efforts of other human beings.

What scared me was that I was seeing some version of the future of sports media. A future in which media members behaved like YouTube trolls, acting purposely ridiculous or antagonistic to initiate conflicts that could be turned into more conflicts that would could be gleefully recounted as content for the audience. I thought that because that’s pretty much what Cohn did:https://youtu.be/4Hf9sjBttFY

Cohn essentially bragged about the number of different things he said that may have prompted Kinlaw’s reaction, and you know what? It worked. Kinlaw got mad. He confronted Cohn. Twice. TMZ published a story about it. So did SFGate.com.

This is troll behavior. You know, the online pests who say or do something intended to provoke a reaction, and once they get that reaction, they recount and scrutinize that reaction with an eye toward triggering another reaction. Lather, rinse repeat. Increasingly, entire online media ecosystems consist of nothing more than people who don’t like each other talking about how much they don’t like one another.

I’m not going to pretend this is entirely new in sports media. Sports columnists have been known to make reputations with their willingness to be critical of the home team. A huge part of Skip Bayless’ brand is his unwavering insistence on highlighting Lebron James’ perceived flaws. Stephen A. Smith has engaged in public feuds with players, namely Kevin Durant.

I do see a difference between this and what Cohn did, though. The reaction Bayless and Smith are primarily concerned with is from their audience, not their subjects. The subjects may get mad, but that’s not the primary goal. At least I hope it’s not.

What happens if that is the primary goal? What if someone is offering opinions not because it’s what they really think, but because they want to provoke a response from the subject? Media careers have been built on less.

I don’t know if that’s the case with Cohn. I’ve never talked to him in my life, and even if I had, it’s impossible to know someone’s true intent. But in listening to everything he said AFTER the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, I’m not willing to assume that Cohn was operating in good faith. Here’s how Cohn described the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, which occurred as practice was beginning.

“In the training room, I saw Javon Kinlaw, who is the king of the training room,” Cohn said. “He’s usually in the training room.”

Cohn said the two locked eyes, but were separated by about 70 yards at the time. Kinlaw then walked across the field to where the reporters were gathered. He stood directly behind Cohn.

“So I turn, and I say, ‘Wassup, Mook Dawg?’ “ Cohn said, referencing the nickname on Kinlaw’s Instagram account. “And he doesn’t say anything. And I say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that, Javon?’ “

“And then he said, ‘What are you going to do about it you bitch-ass,’ and then he said one more word that I can’t say,” Cohn said. “And then I turned to face him, and I said, ‘Oh, it’s like that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s like that.’ And then he knocked the hat off my head.”

OK. Pause. In my experience, when your job is to publicly describe and critique the performance and attitudes of professional athletes, there will be times in which the athletes do not care for your description or your critique. Some of those who are displeased will make their objections known to you.

However, there are two things that are unusual here: First, the fact Kinlaw knocked the hat off Cohn’s head, which is unacceptable. Second, Cohn then posted a video on  YouTube to not only talk about what had happened, but state he had been so critical of Kinlaw for so long he wasn’t sure what specifically sparked Kinlaw’s anger.

“Javon, what are you upset about?” Cohn asked toward the end of  his video. “Is it the fact that I said you have an 80-year-old knee? Is it the fact that I said that you’re a terrible pass rusher and you’re just a two-down player? Is it the fact that I said the Niners shouldn’t have drafted you and should have taken Tristan Wirfs instead. Is it the fact that I said that you’re unprofessional and immature.

“It escapes me, which of the hundred negative things I’ve said about Javon Kinlaw the last couple of years, moved him to approach me in such a way, but you know what, I applaud Javon Kinlaw for coming to speak to me directly, and I ask you, what do you think Javon Kinlaw is mad about.”

Cohn was trolling Kinlaw. No other word for it.

That night, Cohn was conducting a live stream on YouTube, which Kinlaw joined, while apparently eating dinner, to make declarative statements about the size of Cohn’s genitalia — among other things.

Neither one looked particularly impressive. Not Kinlaw, who was profane and combative with a member of the media, at one point making a not-so-subtle threat. Not Cohn, who asked Kinlaw, “Do you think I’m scared of you, Javon?” He also said, “I don’t even know why you’re mad, Javon.”

I think Kinlaw would have been better off ignoring Cohn. If I was Kinlaw’s employer, I would probably prefer he not log into video livestreams to make testicular comparisons. But honestly, I don’t care about what Kinlaw did. At all. He’s not on a team I root for. He didn’t physically harm anyone. He used some bad words in public.

I am bothered not just by Cohn’s actions, but by some of the reactions to them because of what I think this type of behavior will do to an industry I have worked in for 25 years. Credentialed media members who behave like Cohn did this week make it harder for other media members who are acting in good faith. Preserving access for people like him diminishes what that access will provide for those who aren’t trying to use criticism to create conflict that will become content.

I think Cohn knew what he was doing. In his livestream, before Kinlaw joined, Cohn stated he was not scared because he knew — by virtue of his father’s history in the business — that if Kinlaw had touched him he would potentially be entitled monetary compensation.

By now, it should be pretty apparent how problematic this whole thing is and yet on Thursday, a number of 49ers fans online were sticking up for Cohn as just doing his job. Dieter Kurtenbach, a Bay Area columnist, Tweeted: “Javon Kinlaw does not know that @GrantCohn was built for this.” Built for what? Winning Internet fights? Kurtenbach also deleted a Tweet in which he called Kinlaw “soft.”

Cohn’s father, Lowell, is a former columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He promoted the first video his son made on Tuesday:

Sorry, I don’t find it funny because it’s another step down a path in which media members seek reactions at the expense of information. Where they look to make fun of players instead of learning about them. They’ll stop acting like journalists and start acting like the trolls who make their money by instigating a conflict, which they then film: “Jake Paul, reporting live from 49ers practice …”

If that’s the case, thank God I’m about to age out of this business, entirely. I’m 47 years old and I can’t believe there’s anyone in our industry who thinks what Cohn did this week is acceptable.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 75

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A new episode of Media Noise is all about reaction. Demetri reacts to the ManningCast’s big win at the Sports Emmys. Danny O’Neil reacts to people reacting to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Las Vegas and Andy Masur reacts to John Skipper’s comments about Charles Barkley.

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BSM Writers

Bron Heussenstamm Blends Bleav Podcasts Advertising with SiriusXM

Bron Heussenstamm, the CEO of the Bleav Podcast Network says blending podcasting advertising with satellite radio’s reach is a victory for both sides.

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Last week, the Bleav (pronounced believe) Podcast Network announced a deal with SiriusXM to make all 32 NFL team-specific Bleav pods available on the SXM app. SXM can also air Bleav content on any of its sports channels. Each NFL Bleav show pairs a former player with a host to discuss team issues. Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, and Pac-Man Jones are amongst the former players Bleav has signed as talent.

I have hosted a Bleav podcast about Boise State football -the Kingdom of POD. I am usually provided 1-3 advertisers per episode by the network and get paid by the download. My subject matter is regional, so my take-home pay is usually under four figures. I have enjoyed the technical assistance and cross-promotion I receive and I enjoyed meeting Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm. Bron is Los Angeles-based, a USC graduate, and founded Bleav in 2018. We discussed the SXM deal, podcast advertising, and the future. 

Will the podcast advertisers be carried on the SXM distribution platform?

Yes, Bleav baked-in advertisements and hosts read ads are distributed across all platforms. This enables the host to do their show once through, making it as easy as possible for the hosts and consistent for the advertisers.

Bron Heussenstamm, CEO Bleav Podcast Network

How is advertising on Bleav different? 

We want to be more than a ‘host read ad’ or a ‘digital insert’ with our advertising partners. When companies work with Bleav shows and talent, those companies can receive our omnichannel of distribution points—podcast platforms, YouTube, socials, streamers, TV, radio, and more. This allows for consistent branding across all platforms: great talent presenting great companies to fans and consumers no matter where they consume content. 

What is the growth pattern for podcasts that you see? 

The industry trades have presented 400%-800% percent growth over the next ten years. Once the COVID fog lifted, we really saw these gains. Sports are always going to be at the forefront of culture. The increases in all sports sectors have certainly carried into the digital space. 

SXM has started with NFL shows but can also air more Bleav content – what does that look like? 

We’ve started with our NFL network of 32 team shows hosted by a former player. We’ve kept the door open for our NCAAB, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, Basketball, and Soccer networks. We’re happy for our hosts to be part of such a tremendous company and platform. SiriusXM can continue to amplify its voice and give fans the access and insight only a player can provide. 

The Interactive Advertising Bureau-IAB- says podcast revenue grew 72% last year to $1.4B and is expected to grow to $2B this year and double to $4B by 2024. Have you seen similar growth? What is driving the industry now, and what will be the primary cause of growth by 2024?  

There is a myriad of reasons for the growth. I‘ll lean into a couple. 

At Bleav, we launch and maximize the digital arm of industry leaders. The technology upgrades to allow hosts to have a world-class show — simulcast in both audio and video – from their home has led to an explosion of content. With this, the level of content creators has risen. Having a YouTube, RSS feed, podcast, and more is now part of the brand, right alongside Twitter and Instagram. 

If a company wants to advertise on Bleav in Chargers, we know exactly how many people heard Lorenzo Neal endorse their product. We can also safely assume they like the Chargers. The tracking of demo specifics for companies is huge. It’s a fantastic medium to present products to the right fans and consumers.

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